CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – The first thing you notice about the special radio is it has knobs, but no numbers or dials-you turn one knob left or right for the volume, the other for the tone. The radio only plays one station, the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service, and costs about $130, but the subscriber gets it free of charge.
Bob Sikorsky is the director for the reading service, and said their goal is, “We are giving the blind a chance to read. We are not a cure for blindness, but we are a wonderful companion.”
But the radio reading service can do so many things for the visually impaired. The station only has one full-time staffer and two part-timers, but it is the 300 volunteers that keep the reading service on the air 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Volunteers read the Buffalo News, and leading national newspapers; magazines, and top selling books. Reader Gene Wach, who founded his own business then retired and turned the keys over to his family, now spends a few hours each week reading to strangers.
Why does he do it? “Because I am giving to people who are blind and cannot really be able to see the same things I am seeing, and it is conversational–it is like bringing somebody into your house to read in the newspaper or something.”
There is also the husband and wife anchor team of Dorothy and Gene Przybyl, who split duties reading USA Today.
The Niagara Froniter Radio Reading Service is going into its 30th year, and Sikorsky said the service does so much more than reading for those with visual impairments, like the lady who called and asked that they read the daily times for sunrise and sunset.
“I said sure, it is in the paper, we certainly could do it, but why? She said for security–a blind person does not know when to turn the lights on. So it is an advertisement that there is nobody in the house.”
Volunteers also read many of the advertisements, which helps listeners make buying decisions. If you know someone whose life could be enriched by the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service, or you would like to volunteer, their number is 821-5555.